I have a question about an electronic ignition conversion. The back story is that an HEI distributor wont slide down the shaft bore of my 283 because the diameter of the sensor and cap mounting plate is too wide and hits the firewall. I tried to jack the back of the engine up a bit but that didn't make it clear, and after thinking about it, even if it did I suspect the cap would hit when i lowered it. My question is actually two-fold: does anyone know of a original dimension complete distributor that is currently available and works reliably or, can someone recommend a good quality and reliable conversion kit I can use in the distributor i have?
I was just searching online for a solution and have to agree that the options for an original footprint are pretty much nonexistent, so I went and reassessed the condition of the original distributor I have (that appears to have never been out of the engine, judging by how reluctant it was about being removed,) and what I found makes me wonder how the engine runs as good as it does. The vacuum advance and or the breaker plate is stuck, all the metal surfaces are covered with oxidation and the insulation on the wires is melted and or bubbled up and distorted from over heating. I has obviously had a rough life. There is no way I am reinstalling that distributor in that condition. I can do a rebuild but am wondering about the availability of original replacement parts. Any suggestions on a source?
Xena, couple options… There are aftermarket "small cap" HEI distributors for SBC made, that are close in size to the original distributor and cap, not like the huge GM OE HEI units. Search eBay or other for "small cap HEI."
Pertronix is an option as Tim (and others) have said - but if you go that route, look for their Ignitor II or Ignitor III, which are true electronic ignition sets, unlike the original Ignitor which just replaces the points, and consider one of their "matching" coils.
Also, since your stock distributor is very tired, and if you decide to go with Pertronix or stay with points, you may want to check eBay for the same distributor number as your current unit. If you can't find the number tag on the current distributor (which should circle the narrow portion of the distributor body just below the wider upper body), let us know the specifics of your engine - original model year, truck or passenger use and so on - and we can probably help ID what number should have been in that engine. Used SBC distributors are cheap, and with some searching, there are very good cores that show up all the time for about $40-45. May give you a better rebuild candidate, at least. Make sure you get a cast iron body distributor and not the later aluminum body, if that's what yours had, and you want to stay as close to OE as possible.
Anyway, some more things to consider... Happy Memorial Day/Weekend!
Thank you Dr Doug thats all good info. I did find the dist #, which is 1111150, I just got done confirming that the vacuum advance is working (couldn't find my vac pump so I used the vacuum circuit on my 93 cavalier wagon after removing the advance from the distributor) I did discover the coil to dist was shorting due to broken / burned insulation, so i removed it and am now wondering if I will find the correct wire to fit it. I am pretty sure I can reuse the OEM brass connectors. I will however be checking Ebay for the small cap HEI units, just to be able to consider all options. I am thinking a spare dist and coil is not a bad thing to have in the truck when i am 20 miles away from the closest asphalt and my ignition fails. Beem there done that, didn't enjoy it then and wouldn't enjoy it now....
Thanks again for your input. Have a Great Weekend! Xena
You might consider contacting pat mason at mason racing ignitions. Pat was vertex magneto’s head engineer when vertex was in blue bell, Pennsylvania. He builds, rebuilds, repairs and restores every kind of ignition you can think of. He is quiet, knows what he is doing, does excellent work, fair prices, and his shop is immaculate. The first time I used him I could not believe how neat and organized. His shop was a veritable whose who of vintage ignitions. He may very well have some options for you.
Call, don’t email him, it’s old school. That is pat on the left and my son on the right last summer after pat re did my decades old 235/261 Chevy vertex that I had not run since the middle 90s. Pat serviced it all up, works perfect.
The wire from distributor to coil isn't anything special. It's 18 gauge, black insulated, stranded copper wire, that feeds through a grommet in the distributor body. I just looked at a spare (cast iron) distributor in my shop that came from an early '60's 327. Your 283 is probably similar. If the grommet needs to be replaced, they are readily available and inexpensive. A quick search on eBay brought up a couple different styles, depending on the model year. Some wire, terminals, maybe a new grommet, and you should be back in business!
I appreciate all the info and feedback from you all. Thank you.
Just to update, I have decided to keep the truck original. I have found an OEM re-manufactured Delco Remy distributor on Amazon of all places and, amazingly to me, found an NOS Delco Remy distributor lead wire on eBay (GM Part #1942518, D-1203). My plan is to have the extra coil and distributor along with a distributor wrench in the truck at all times which will, in all likelihood, prevent me from ever having to use them. However, peace of mind is priceless. All told, the price of the distributor, Delco wires and coil, and distributor lead was about $120, which I consider money well spent.
Now I can move on to trying to figure out why the rear passenger corner of my K20 bed is 1 1/2" inches lower than the other three corners.....
So, the new distributor, wires and coil are installed and the engine sounds mighty fine. There is one issue that has made the project not quite finished though.
The primary resistor wire for the run circuit is apparently nowhere to be found in the truck. A former owner wired the coil for a full 12VDC from the starter by moving the wire from the start post to the run post; I put it back that way just to confirm the operation of the new distributor, but don't want to run it that way for too long. I am thinking that at least partially explains the melted wire insulation both inside and outside of the old distributor. Installing a ballast resistor is no big deal but I would prefer to keep the truck original by not screwing a ballast resistor to the firewall.
I am having no luck finding a replacement for the original resistor wire. Does anyone know of a source for that wire?